Expect to hear multiple renditions of chopsticks in the next few weeks as a dazzling array of gold-coloured pianos will be appearing on London’s streets.
From Hampstead Heath to the East End, the second-hand pianos have been placed in public places for people to use freely, as part of the 50th City of London Festival.
It is the fourth and final year of the street pianos project, which has seen thousands tickling the ivories and prompted some unusual levels of dedication. “Last year one man did a marathon tour of the pianos, running between the locations and stopping to play as he went,” says festival organiser Jessica Rees.
“In the City we had a student join a businessman from a nearby office and they played a duet together. It was fabulous to see these two people – who had never met – come together, play a piece of music and then go their separate ways.
“One man even played the piano at St Barts hospital every day for the full three weeks. He lived in Wembley and didn’t have a piano at home. He played beautifully and people loved listening to him.”
Residents get protective about their local piano, even going as far as offering to cover it if rain threatens, Rees says.
This year’s golden crop have been decorated by street artists Milo Tchais, Themba Mkhize, Steven Ball, Morgan Paton and Anna Masters.
“We wanted to work with emerging artists whose work could be featured to decorate the pianos,” Rees explains. “We want the pianos to make a visual impact.”
To celebrate the opening of the event, Tony Hadley will be performing Spandau Ballet’s most famous anthem, Gold, on the Millennium Bridge alongside the National Youth Jazz Orchestra. And a golden piano, naturally.
Choreographer Rafael Bonachela has created a dance and piano duet with music written by Mercury Prize nominee Gwilym Simcock. Performances will tour each of the 50 pianos from June 27-29.
There’s more to the City of London Festival than the pianos. “The tour of The Bank of England is always one of the most popular events,” says Rees, adding there is a wide range of classical concerts, film screenings and more.
Dick Whittington may have thought the streets of London were paved with gold, but he probably had no ideas the pianos were.
June 24–July 13